Cancer. We’ll talk about it once and never mention it again.

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It’s amazing how long one can stare at the screen. The words and stoicism for this post didn’t come till now and the terror still hasn’t stopped, and, mainly, coming to the decision to publish this at all, AT ALL, has been a long and tortuous route.

Today I read a post from a lovely girl whose blog I enjoy, who had a nasty experience with a customer accusing her of making silly crafts with her children and buying over-priced Christmas trees instead of tending to her shop. Behind the scenes, behind the two lovely post of crafting with her children and buying their Christmas tree, this mother of four young boys, (one of them a newborn), dealt with sick babies, volunteer hours at her son’s school, answering emails, running a business, preparing for her eldest’s birthday party, nursing round the clock, staying up till 2am fulfilling orders, and a million other things not reflected in those two blog posts, and I thought, yeah, that’s it right there, mostly what I show here is the lovely side of my life, and I do that purposefully, because it is also MY refuge from the occasional trauma of my day to day. But there are some things that take us out of our lovely, bucolic romanticism and plonk us squarely on the cold, cement floor of life…on our face…naked and exposed.

One such thing happened mid September.

Remember way back when I checked myself into surgical daycare to have a tumour in a saliva gland removed? Remember how these things are 99.9% benign? Well, this one turned out to be the .1% malignant! And thereby ensued months of terror, reflection, a new relationship with my malfunctioning body, with therapy, with specialists, with the conveyor belt which is the BC Cancer Agency, with my family, with the people I trust.

As soon as I received the diagnosis, I told my children and Robert and my mother. My children understandably panicked with fear for my life, but Robert and my mother stayed level headed. My mother then said something to me. She said, “we have to take it as it comes.”

Later that week, C and I were at the grocery store, and a lovely blond woman said hello to C. They exchanged a few sentences and then she turned to me and said, “Oh, are you out and about? How are you feeling?” with an incredibly concerned voice. I must say that my first initial reaction was to grab C’s hand and back away slowly from this “mad” woman, but then it dawned on me that she was a relative of my son-in-law’s and by virtue of my telling Kers, his family knew. And then I knew I didn’t want to tell anyone. I wanted to control the dissemination of this info. I didn’t want the sympathy, the platitudes, the awkward gestures from people who just didn’t know what to say…how to cope, and mainly, I didn’t want to be seen as different, as “not me”. Does that make sense? I does in my own mind.

But now that I’ve coped, now that I’ve come thru this and out the other end of the conveyor belt, I can talk about this. So I invite you to use my vast bank of experience and knowledge if you need to. Ask me anything. We’ll talk about this once, right here, and then we’ll forget all about it and get back to our lovely lives, but you’re welcome to ask me again, whenever and if ever you need to.

The word “cancer” is a horrible word. I have trouble saying it. Robert suggested that I call it wonky cells…because, after all, that’s all they are, just a bunch of wonky cells…and that’s what we’ll call it. It’s not a battle, it’s not a dragon to be slayed, it’s just a bunch of wonky cells who have no thought, no emotion, no purpose except to replicate. As a matter of fact, they don’t want to kill this organism which is my body, because then they would also die. They just need to be delicately and forcefully removed and persuaded never to come back.

This type of wonky cellness is called Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma, and it’s exceedingly rare. It makes up 1% of the rarest 5% of all wonky cellnosity. Now don’t go looking it up on Wiki, you’ll only upset yourself. The main thing to remember is that it is highly responsive to radiation therapy, it hides and travels thru nerves, and this tumour had only a 30% breach of its lining, so probably not a lot of cells managed to travel thru the nerves and to my brain.

The several tests, CT scans, MRIs, didn’t show any metastasis or any other clusters in lymph nodes or other glands, so a course of largely preventative radiation therapy was undertaken with daily one minute doses for 37 treatments.

As usual, I found my solace in art. Robert, again being my saviour, strongly suggested I keep one of my art journals throughout the treatment, and at the very last minute, I ran down to my friend Dalyce’s second hand book store, and bought a book. The book I chose I chose for the name, “sense and nonsense”. I liked the small pocket size, I liked the calm blue cover, I liked holding a random book (which I knew nothing about), I liked how it felt, I liked the randomness of it all, the having to take it as it comes. I counted the pages and worked out that gluing every four pages together would give me enough pages to complete my course of treatment plus a couple pages to spare. The book was written by Eric Patrick Nicol; a Canadian writer of some 40 books (none of which I read or knew anything about). I’m ever so grateful to Mr Nicol for his work and for this book. I do believe it saved my sanity, and my knowledge and sharing of it may possibly go a long way towards helping others trying to cope thru the devastating fear of a wonky cell diagnosis.

So, what follows are the pages of my journal. I’ll try to describe the days briefly, but feel free to ask me any questions you like. Feel free to have these images for whatever purpose, but please remember that this original book is the intellectual property of the estate of Mr Nicol…to whom I owe a huge debt of gratitude.

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As you probably already know, I’m luckier than most people. Both my parents are/were doctors, all their friends are doctors, and I’m an only child. Than means that every course of treatment, every test, every decision was shopped around a consortium of doctors before it was agreed on.

One of the best things I ever did was join a wellness centre called Inspire Health and upped my yoga, my meditation, my creative visualisation, and researched all supporting natural remedies.

So for anyone who must undertake a course of radiation therapy, let me very strongly advise you to take daily doses of 3000 iu of vitamin D, super critically extracted turmeric, a very good probiotic well ahead of time and all the way thru to boost white blood cell production, and form a relationship with miso soup, which is shown to dissipate radiation toxins out of the body.

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And keep a journal. For you that might look very different from mine. But sitting around in waiting rooms, feeling scared, looking at the devastatingly sick and suffering people around, their grey faces, their panicked but stoic expressions, it’s very helpful to shut the world out and concentrate on your journal.

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Working thru the days in my book I found words which said something about the way I was feeling each day. I circled the words, sketched a drawing which felt right, and outlined everything in a sepia ink pen.

These were simple tasks to do while sitting in waiting rooms.

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I took my supplies with me in a pencil case in my purse, switching out the coloured Faber-Castell markers to suit each day.

Some days were optimistic, some days less so. I drew my feelings around Mr Nicol’s words.

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I think one of the hardest times was seeing children coming in from Children’s Hospital for radiation treatment since Children’s doesn’t have radiation chambers. Another difficult thing was waiting for radiation symptoms to come on and dreading each twinge.

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It took to me the first week before I felt I could open my eyes in that radiation mask and actually watch the machine sweep past me. The mask is tight, locked down to the table one lies on and breathing is somewhat restricted. The feeling of stuckedness, of vulnerability, of claustrophobia are acute and real. Meditating thru the few minutes of one’s confinement is very helpful. I tended to visualise myself walking thru a semipermeable membrane, which allowed my body thru it but not the dark, smoking wonky cells, which fell down to the ground behind me.

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The days leading up to Remembrance Day were difficult. Most of you know my father was the doctor for the BC war vets and he took them to places such as Vimy Ridge and to meet the Queen, and most of you probably know that he died before his “old boys” of a terrible terminal cancer. Actually, the only two episodes of wonky cellness in my family, my father and my aunt, were both discovered too late and terminal within two years.

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The days post R.D. I felt a sadness which was hard to shake. But I went for an acupuncture treatment at the wellness centre and that helped me flip back to a more positive outlook.

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The second week into treatment, as with most people who have radiation in the region of their head, my taste buds started to shut off and die. The first taste which went was salt, then sugar, then, gradually, everything began to taste like a mix of alkaline water, (that sulphuric kind you get at hot springs and certain spas) and flour mixed to different degrees of texture.

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It’s funny, you know. You can blindfold yourself and experience what it’s like to be blind to some degree. You can stuff cotton in your ears and feel a little deaf, but you can’t possibly understand what it’s like to lose your sense of taste because there just is no reference point. No way to test it out before hand.

I can still acutely feel sitting at the sushi bar with Clover and dipping a piece of California roll into some soy sauce. The character of the soy sauce turned to the most horrible bitterness in my mouth. Very unexpected.

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By the 21st on November everything tasted foul and the only thing palatable was my Earl Grey tea with a heaping spoon of super sweet Stevia and another of Manuka honey, miso soup, toast without butter and, for some bizzare reason, tempura prawns.

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Midway point and a private little celebration. I bought myself a few beautiful coffee table books. I was also offered the radiation mask to take home after treatment. My initial reaction was, “not a hope in hell!!!”, but I had a think about it. I didn’t change my mind because taking the mask home would have put the onus on me to dispose of it. The material is not recyclable, it would take too much effort and (by now my rapidly diminishing) strength to cut it up, and it would have to hang around till the spring time till I got to the cabin to burn it safely, (still releasing toxic plastics into the atmosphere). No thank you. I captured the mask on these pages instead. It can stay here too.

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Into the final half of treatment I began to think about how “normal” my new life was feeling. Daily drives across town for radiation, lack of taste, losing weight, avoidance of meals, while still trying to run the household and my business, while keeping my children, my family, my relationship with Robbie a priority, while trying to distract myself with TV or the computer to try to eat revoltingly tasting foods, which often trigger a gag reflex, in an effort to nourish myself. Robert helped again by telling me to focus on foods as necessary medicine.

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I remembered my father and my aunt going thru chemo, barely strength enough to walk, how quickly we adopt a situation to a new normal. Some chronic fatigue hit at about this time. But sleep is restorative, so I happily gave in.

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November came to a close and December took its place and with that a new focus. Christmas lights went up in the hood, trees in windows, carols on the radio…a much happier state of affairs. I also focused on my art more. My precious gift of creativity which saves me time and time again.

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I counted down the treatment days. Nine, then eight more to go. Life seemed a bit more uplifted even with worsening symptoms. I also focused on and counted my blessings when I got too down.

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And poured my feelings into my book. Each day Mr Nicol came thru with brilliant words that felt just right, and on the pages which fell on the book’s illustrations, I created myself little collages.

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All thru this treatment I was under that care of an oncologist, as is expected, and a psychologist. The very rare and not understood nature of this wonky cellness made it difficult for me to relate to any other person. As far as I know, there is one man, who is ten years post treatment and doing exceptionally well, here in BC and 20 more across Canada. It left me feeling very alone and, I must admit to having stupid thoughts like, “why couldn’t I have had breast wonkynossity and be part of a better understood crowd?” How stupid am I? I did slap myself out of that!

The skin on the left side of my neck gradually changed, became frail, wrinkly, red, flaky, but thanks to the heavy doses of turmeric and the miso soup, and, I suppose, thanks to my oily Mediterranean skin, these symptoms were not as bad as some of the people’s going thru similar.

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But with only four treatments left, things were beginning to look more positive, more survivable. Robert arrived, and it isn’t only me having to hold down the fort. He held my hand on the evening of Friday Dec 12th and said, “just think, this is the worst you’ll ever feel. Things will never be this bad again.” Two days to recover over the weekend, and three treatments to go. By now the nerves leading from my jaw to my brain have been so affected that yawning, sneezing, blowing my nose are various degrees of excruciatingly painful. But pain or no pain, how lucky am I to live in this time, in this city, with access to government funded medical help, with a treatment which has been modernised, a treatment, which as early as ten years ago, would have scattered a dangerous 66 grays of radiation over my entire head, neck and chest, which now confined to and pinpointed to complete accuracy withing one computer controlled channel thru the brain. And above all, how lucky am I for my mother, for her medical knowledge and council, for Robert for holding me up day or night, for his positive loving guidance, for my precious Chloe, who never left my side, insisted on accompanying me to every treatment, with the exception of three which she couldn’t manage, joked with and befriended the team of technicians, helped to decorate the radiation ward Christmas tree, and for Jonathan and Kerstin who checked in on me and showed loving concern despite their own busy lives. They have been the bright shining stars in my life for these past months.

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Finally, the last two days, the last day, and my normal was about to be restructured into a newer normal.

And now, the normal is that of recovery, of regeneration, of health, of life, of happiness, of reduced stress, of fulfilling dreams, hopes, of love, of love for my strong, healthy, wonky cell free body, for my children, for Robert, for my mother, for friends, a new normal of living a long and happy life.

We have to take it as it comes.

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Remembrance

Yesterday I painted in my very personal journal. I found some words and painted a poppy around them.

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Today I spent Remembrance Day with my mother. We remembered my father and his years of dedication to veterans as the head doctor of the Vancouver chapter of Veterans Affairs Canada.

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After lunch, while mom filled out some paper work, I riffled thru dad’s glass collection.

I love his collection of sparkly shiny glass. Some ancient Pompeii glass, some modern Waterford crystal, some rare medieval pieces he picked up at auction.

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And then, from the very back, I pulled out this strange little etched goblet. Strange because I have no idea where dad got it, and, now that he’s been gone all these years, I can’t ask him about it. It has flowers etched into the crystal. Maybe some are meant to be poppies, maybe, or probably they are, because under the etching of the flowers is an etched word: “Erinnerung” German for Remembrance.

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And maybe there isn’t a mystery. Everyone, whether allies or enemy, everyone a person, everyone affected in some way by the tragedy of war. I’ve no idea where my British father got the little goblet with the German word etched on it, but you know what? I’m so glad I found it today of all days.

Lest we forget.

Colour, Ariane’s drawing challenge, redirected thru Barbara Bee

I was walking around the garden and contemplating the challenge when it occurred that the garden is still a rainbow of colour.

So, for some inspiration, I gathered that rainbow and brought it indoors.

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And from that rainbow came this:

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A little collage, wild colour painting with a tiny gold bird hidden in the rainbow.

And now this little vibrant orchid, (one of my kaleidoscope cards), is for Our Rose, Ariane, our original host, who suffered a house fire this week. All our thoughts are with you sweetie, hope everything turns out alright.

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The challenge has been redirected thru our Bee.

Hello from Sunday night, which turned into a Monday post…again

Well, I must admit that this operation has knocked me on my butt!

Here I was all lah-di-dah thinking, “right, op on Monday, yoga class on Wednesday.” Well, not exactly what I managed. Actually, not even close to what I managed.

I did some research and asked my mother, (who is an anaesthetist herself), and the long and short of it is that the anaesthetic drugs settle in the fat cells and take a while to clear, and the longer the procedure, the longer the clearing. It seams that the 90 minutes might take up to one month for my body to get rid of the toxins. Damn, wish there was such a thing as organic anaesthetic. (Don’t say they could have hit me over the head…lol) So I’m plodding along feeling awfully tired and moody and no yoga at all.

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There have been some lovely and bright spots in my week though, The weather’s been so warm and sunny that I washed all the quilts and feather pillows and hung them in the sunshine to dry, had a lovely harvest of organic grapes from the garden, and I also caught up with some of my children for a fabulous curry supper under purple lights…mmm prawn vindaloo. We had Ziggy with us and she was so good that she slept almost thru the whole supper.

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Who else loves curry? Do you make it at home? I hardly ever do, except maybe for butter chicken or something like aloo gobi, but I think I should make it more often.

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Also, I’ve been feeling a bit stuck at home and have not had much energy for art, so I decided to rearrange things round here to look a bit more late summer-autumnal. I decided I wanted to look at this large oil of a late summer meadow. I painted this several years ago, but it’s one of those paintings I really love, so have never sold it.

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Over the years I’ve built up a collection of vintage decoy ducks, (I buy one each time I visit Quebec), and I decided to have my lone goose on the mantle. Behind it I put an oil I painted when I was 20 something, of aspen in the autumn.

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Further along are some potted plants and a wooden quail/partridge I found in the forest close to my father’s cabins.

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On the other side are the two stupid white cats, (as my children call them), a little art piece of fog in an old tobacco tin I did last year, and a little porcelain of my great grandmother. I have to tell you the story of the stupid white cats: so I found one about 20 years ago and just loved it. Then the second one shortly after that. These two hung around the fireplace off and on in two previous houses for years, and, about five years ago, my children thought it would be funny to start buying me every white porcelain cats they come across, and now I have seven! They still come and go, but these two original ones seem to be hanging around more these days.

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I’m hoping for some cooler weather soon, (the garden sure needs it), and, to help with the cooler weather wishful thinking, I’ve brought in some firewood.

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So now that I like my living room I have to go redecorate the rest of the house…just need a bit more energy.

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But for now I’m rearranging my wardrobe, filling the house with garden dahlias, and enjoying every warm, late summer day.

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I aten’t dead yet!

That line is one of my favourite lines in fiction.
For anyone who doesn’t read Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, this line is attributed to Granny Weatherwax, a witch, who lives outside the small village of Bad Ass, which incidentally is what my children figure that the scar on my neck will look like. :D

Well, it’s been a few days, hasn’t it? I guess you could say that people post traumatic operations should probably take it easy, and I guess I’ve over-done it round here and now I’m in bed feeling not so hot, but over-all everything is going to be fine and ‘I aten’t dead yet.’

This lovely, fragrant posy ended up by my front door yesterday. It came with some lovely pages about planting an all white garden, an interesting art exhibit and indoor plants, with a little note: “From Rosemarie from the Art in the Garden tour, I read your blog.” Isn’t that the sweetest thing?

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Thank you so much Rosemarie, thank you for thinking of me. :D Please say hello so I can get to know you.

I know I should have been resting post op, but after two months away form them, Kerstie brought all three of our little girls over and we got to play with some of the toys I brought for them from England and also to start putting together the loveliest, but also complicated, wooden puzzle made after my friend Jackie Morris‘ drawing of dragon hatchlings.

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And while Ziggy was having a nap, Binky and Bunny redecorated the doll’s house.

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Now at this point I think I should have kissed my little and big ones goodnight and went to bed, but a supper came up with all of my children and I just couldn’t say no!

Jonathan made reservations at a downtown restaurant called Gyu-Kaku Japanese Barbecue.

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Most fun ever! A central grill and loads of dishes equals cook your own supper.

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And so we did.

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Chef Adam and Chef Jonathan hard at work.

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And what do you have for desert when there’s a grill right in front of you? Smores! And lychee ice cream.

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We had such a lovely time…except maybe a bit too much sake and wine.

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And got home way too late!

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Today we had monster truck races…

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…and monster chocolate chip cookie faces…

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Nourishing soup, fresh squeezed orange juice and tea, and I do believe we all felt better afterwards.

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And this evening, in the warm quiet of my studio, Clover and I finished the dragon hatchling puzzle, put it back in its box, and finally I decided I needed rest.

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And so I went to bed early with Terry Pratchett’s Feet of Clay, and my lovely pages from Rosemarie. For all of you who have never read any of Pratchett’s Discworld novels, I’m so jealous!!! I reread them quite often and I love them to pieces, and to think, you have this whole world to discover and delight in…you lucky ducks you.

Thank you everyone for thinking of me, and big hugs form me, (the bride of Frankenstein), to you. I’ll be back soon. :D

Hello from Sunday night

Do you guys do this?
Do you sometimes wish for things that aren’t instead of feeling grateful for things that are?
Yeah, I’m all over that these days.

Simple things; like not revelling in these warm, late summer days and wishing for cooler days of autumn so I can wear my sweaters, knowing perfectly well that when those cool days come, I’ll be wishing for the warmth of today.

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I think that a couple big things are bugging me these days.

Thing one is that I just miss Robbie so much, and thing two is that tomorrow I have to be brave and check myself into surgical day care for a small procedure which I’m dreading.

Now you probably all know that I’m the product of two doctors, so it doesn’t make much sense because I’m just pretty au fait with all things surgical, so I guess it’s the full moon.

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Still, this week/weekend has been a pretty fabulous one, (ocean and river time), and C and I even caught a special pop-up yoga class, outside, in a parking lot, under the deep blue sky.

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We’ve been looking for a new yoga studio, and must say that we’ve found a couple pretty fabulous ones, but then fell in love with the beautiful energy of one certain tiny tattooed yogini, so maybe we think we may have found the perfect fit for us.

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Lately, I’ve been noticing red. Is red the new black or something? Anyone notice that? Maybe it’s an autumnal thing, but red seems to be all over the place. Personally, I’m all over that too. I love red.

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And unusual food things. You know, It was cranberry festival time in the country today. Maybe that why red was all over the place. Maybe it’s a cranberry thing. I had cranberries in my arugula and gorgonzola with roasted pear salad at lunch. That little sweet hit of red with the sharp cheese and the peppery arugula was just wonderful.

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I also had coconut prawns with a mango chutney. Who ever thought to roll shrimp in coconut laced batter? Brilliant, wasn’t he?

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There was a bit of antiquing in the country today. I fell in love with a doll. The doll in this mosaic image to be exact. My children wince when I bring home old toys, and especially “creepy old dolls”, as they’re commonly known round here, but I don’t care. Now that I’m you know, like an adult and have my own house, I’ll buy all the creepy old dolls I want…so there! (stamps foot) But actually, this doll looks very much like the memory I have of a cherished childhood doll which was left behind in the Czech Republic when we escaped. Maybe I’m always trying to rebuild what’s been lost.

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Maybe I’m just in a funny mood tonight.

So I guess I better also tell you all, (because by now you’re all going, “come on V, what’s it all about), that the procedure I have to undergo tomorrow is not a sudden thing. I’ve been watching a growth slowly enlarge in a salivary gland over the better part of a year, and ultrasound and MRI confirm that there is a tumour which just shouldn’t be there, so out it goes.

Out it goes tomorrow morning and off to pathology, where I’m pretty sure the diagnosis will be non malignant, because statistically 99% of these kinds of things end up benign, and also, the scans don’t show any other enlarged glands.

Still it’s a bit on the unnerving side for me round here. (And most of all the Vanity Smurf in me doesn’t really want a scar on my neck… Oh have to tell you a funny story: the surgeon said, “we’ll just put the incision in this wrinkle because incisions tend to heal better in natural creases.” and I said, “what wrinkle!?!!?” And he said, “well, OK, but eventually you would get a wrinkle here.”)

But for tonight, I’ve got a wonderful wild salmon in the oven and it’s fragrant and salmony, stuffed with lemon and red onion slices and a large bunch of rosemary, thyme, fennel and marjoram…

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…and I’m about to go sit over here with one of these and relax and think about the full moon.

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Sharing with Judith and the Mosaic bunch and catching up with everyone when I can. Biggest hugs to everyone.

Friday night disaster…averted!

I have a Land Rover story to tell you, but rather than show you the gruesome happenings, I’m going to show you the lovely vintage things I bought the other day.

So, I had to run into Oxford today and Robbie and I made a deal that I would undercoat the chassis of the Landi first thing this morning and then, while I’m in Oxford, R would put the floors back in.

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“Just get under the car,” Robbie said, “I’ll spread out a carpet remnant for you. It’ll be easy. Half an hour and you’ll have it done.”

Then he said, “Here, use this scrapper and this screwdriver and this wire brush to just brush off the loose bits before you paint it.” :D

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So I tied my two feet of hair into a braid, got into R’s overalls, climbed under the car and started scraping the tar goop and loose rust off…which started falling all over the carper remnant, R’s overalls, and my two feet of hair!!! And the more I moved under the car, the more it got into my hair.

About an hour into it R came to see how I was getting on.
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And to help me with the job because we greatly underestimated the amount of work.

About three hours later we were finally finished and I cleaned my hands with the turpentine and ran my fingers thru my fringe and my fingers wouldn’t go thru it.

OMG! How will I get tar and enamel latex out of my hair!

No time for hair rescue, tied it up and drove into Oxford.

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I love to walk the 3 miles into the town centre from the park and ride and today I had a beautiful walk in a strong wind…which blew my hair around and tangled the tar into it even more.

Now I know that the theory is that one shouldn’t have two feet of hair past their 30s but stuff that for a game of soldiers. I love having long hair and, what’s more, I love being a brunette, so cutting the tar out and using solvents was not an option.

So, back home, and I ran a really hot bubble bath, soaked in it for a very long time, washed my hair with R’s strong detergent Pantene instead of my gentle organic shampoo, squidged an entire tube of thick, gloopy conditioner thru my hair in two treatments and combed thru it with a fine toothed comb. The resulting hairball would have made my long haired Morgan jealous, but, a final little comb thru with a bit of coconut oil detangler, and my hair is back to soft, lustrous, normal.

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Disaster averted.
And I have a beautiful, rust free Land Rover (Landi update to follow) :D

Hello from Sunday night

This always happens, and, we really should know better.
Towards the end of the summer, Robert and I go a bit mental and take on a huge home project. This weekend we decided to build a carport against the end of the garage and this required chopping down a huge damson plum, moving ton’s of wood and Jaguar car parts out of the way, and general over-the-top energy expenditure.

By Sunday afternoon we were gonners (British for tired/moodswingy/divorce central!).

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We took a walk in one of our favourite places, The Whomping Willow Walk. The Whomping Willow is actually a huge horse chestnut, but Chloe named it that when she was about 9yrs old, and the name stuck. :D

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I tend to trip over four leaf clovers and find them everywhere, but felt lucky to find this one because we usually see deer in this area, and it felt like a good omen to me.

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And just as we walked into the forest, there he was! A beautiful little muntjac deer walked across our path.

We stopped instantly, but he noticed us and bounded into the forest.

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I stood up on a stump and tried to look for him, but he was well camouflaged in the bracken and grasses.
I stood there for some time listening to the bird song and the rustle of the great trees and bracken in the wind.

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Then we walked on, past the thistle sending itself into the forest…

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…and to the Whomping Willow, (which is actually a horse chestnut)…

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…and past the Whomping Willow to the alley of yews.

Someone must have planted these yews years ago. They are so huge and make a dark bower over head. Someone keeps a small, child-like fort under one of the yews. It has a few stumps for a table and chairs and a woven branch roof. Chloe used to pretend it was fairies inviting children to have a play.

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We walked to the end of the yew alley and turned back for home.

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On our way out of the forest, we spied the muntjac grazing in the field. The wind was howling and we were upwind from him, so he didn’t notice us at all. We watched him graze all the way back up the path past the wildflowers.

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And then we drove home.

Sharing with Judith and all the lovelies at Mosaic Monday.

An art day

It’s been a funny kind of a day today, and I suppose there’s something about the moon or this heat or something, because I woke up feeling super down.

R and I were listening to the Sound of the 60s on BBC 4 over our breakfast in bed. Usually we end up bopping away to the silly songs, but today the songs just made me feel weepy. Especially the song Blackbird.

And I don’t even know why…that’s the drag of it all. I mean, nothing really happened at all! Maybe it’s last night’s bad sleep or a couple small annoyances that added up to a major downer…I don’t really know. But R just hugged me thru it and told me that all we are are tiny, insignificant carbon-based lifeforms, spinning gently on this tiny planet, around a little burning star, in an obscure section of the Milky Way, a tiny galaxy in a universe of billions of galaxies, with other life forms thinking that they’re all alone out there, and right now, this moment, everything’s fine right here with us…and it was.

Today was going to be an easy, stay at home kind of day for me. R had a client come today with his mini to have R map the engine, and so I took the afternoon to paint.

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I started the kingfisher the other day on a page from a 1920’s copy of Grieg’s Sigurd Jorsalfar, and so I finished him today.

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But what I really wanted to paint was a blackbird. One page didn’t seem like enough, so I took out two middle pages from the same Grieg and started these.

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Many more layers of dark paint and then I’ll stand them on fence posts.

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I was looking thru some photos and found a few of some fireweed, (willowherb in the UK). Maybe I’ll paint a bunch of fireweed behind and around my blackbirds.

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Actually, I’ve been taking a bunch of random country photos these days because I think I’d like to paint an oil of a pastoral scene of some kind and my photos usually serve as terrific reference for paintings.

I snapped this one, (like a lot of them), while R was driving yesterday.

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You know, at the time I took this one, I thought to myself, “will that dead spiderweb show up” and then I though, “No, it probably wont.”

Well, actually, what I managed was to give myself a webby Dali moustache. :D

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Big hugs, and I hope you all have a brilliant, happy and relaxing Sunday, which ever corner of the ol’ globe you’re in.

Inner Eye, Susan’s wonderful drawing challenge

Last week, Ariane announced that Susan had offered “Inner Eye” as this weekend’s drawing challenge.

I happily jumped at the chance to participate. Inner eye, how hard can that be?

Turns out that it was pretty hard for me. I don’t mean difficult as in technique, I mean difficult as in feeling satisfied with an image to depict the subject.

I think I drove Robert crazy with the constant reevaluating.

At first I broke down the inner eye, the third eye, the Sanskrit Ajna, the Shiva Hakini, three petals of the white lotus, moon and sun, my yoga practice…there’s too much, you know? In the end I was most satisfied with the white lotus, and that’s what I started to draw and then paint.

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The painting evolved any old way along my favourite “as the cell divides” method. I used pencils and inks and pens and acrylics and watercolours and charcoals.

I still have Mucha in my mind and so it took on a somewhat Art Nouveau bend. I still have Klimt in my mind and so some of Klimt’s colours and shapes popped in. And, by this morning, I put this painting down and had a big sigh.

I’m not satisfied with it.

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The more I looked at the white lotus on that yellow, golden background, the more I wasn’t satisfied with it, the more I came to Poe.

The lotus reminded of my favourite Poe story, Silence, a Fable, and the following:
“The waters of the river have a saffron and sickly hue –and they flow not onwards to the sea, but palpitate forever and forever beneath the red eye of the sun with a tumultuous and convulsive motion. For many miles on either side of the river’s oozy bed is a pale desert of gigantic water-lilies. They sigh one unto the other in that solitude, and stretch towards the heaven their long ghastly necks, and nod to and fro their everlasting heads.”

And, while I read it, I looked at the amazing art of William Heath Robinson.

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And this afternoon I picked up a page of Chums; a boy’s magazine from 1910.

I started to draw the white lotus again, ghastly and ghostly in it’s sickly hued morass, sighing, unto the others.

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This time I’m satisfied. :D

Come have a look at Susan’s site and our friends’ wonderful ideas about this challenge.

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